Four convictions for Kathryn Knott

Four convictions for Kathryn Knott

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After 14 hours of deliberations, a jury convicted Kathryn Knott of four misdemeanor charges Friday morning.

Knott kept her hands folded and began silently crying after the third "guilty" verdict was read. The victims in the case, Zachary Hesse and Andrew Haught, didn't react.

Knott was convicted of simple assault, reckless endangerment and conspiracy to commit simple assault against Hesse, and reckless endangerment against Haught. Her four convictions are misdemeanors, each of which carries a penalty of up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

She was cleared of two felony aggravated-assault charges and two felony counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, as well as one count of simple assault and one count of conspiracy to commit simple assault. 

Knott will be sentenced Feb. 8 and remains free until then. 

Prosecutors said Knott was part of a group that physically and verbally attacked Haught and Hesse at 16th and Chancellor streets Sept. 11, 2014. The melee started, they said, when Kevin Harrigan, a friend of Knott, made a derogatory comment about the men being a couple. Harrigan and co-defendant Philip Williams accepted plea deals this fall and will receive no jail time; Knott rejected a similar plea deal. 

More than 20 witnesses were presented over the four-day trial. Assistant District Attorney Mike Barry and defense attorney Louis Busico delivered closing statements Tuesday afternoon and the jury of eight women and four men started deliberations at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, after Judge Roxanne Covington spent about an hour instructing them on the law.

The jury periodically submitted requests for information as they deliberated, including asking to see all eight video clips used as evidence twice and police statements from the victims, three prosecution witnesses and a defense witness. They also asked for clarification on the reckless-endangerment and conspiracy laws.

Prosecution’s case

Both Hesse and Haught took the stand during the trial.

Hesse, 29, told jurors that he and boyfriend Haught had just gotten frozen yogurt with Hesse’s family and were heading to get pizza at Broad and Locust streets when they heard a man — whom Barry and Busico both stipulated was Harrigan — say, “What is that, your fucking boyfriend?”

“I never had anyone speak to me like that before. I was in shock,” Hesse testified. “Who would be doing this in the middle of Philadelphia?”

He said Harrigan shoved him, he shoved Harrigan back and Harrigan then punched him.

“It got messy. People were screaming, yelling, punches were thrown,” he said.

Hesse testified that, after the initial encounter with Harrigan, he was surrounded by the group, had his arms pinned to his side and was punched about five times. He said he saw Knott approach with an open hand and he closed his eyes as she struck him.

“She was screaming ‘fucking faggot’ in my face and swinging at me,” he testified.

On cross-examination, Busico repeatedly emphasized that the situation was chaotic. However, Hesse confirmed to Barry that, while some details of the melee were muddled, he clearly recalled Knott entering the fray and punching him in the face.

“The girls were intense; I was really surprised,” Haught told the jury when he testified Friday. “Everyone in the group was out to make sure we knew we were dirty faggots.”

Haught, 28, suffered multiple broken facial bones during the incident. He underwent surgery and had his jaw wired shut for eight weeks, losing 15 pounds.

He identified Knott from a photo array as the woman he said he saw punch Hesse. 

The couple’s story was supported by testimony from eyewitnesses Rachel Mondesir, 20, and Michelle Moore, 21, friends who witnessed part of the incident. 

Moore said she saw “a lady beating on the man” whom she identified as a blonde in a black and white dress; Knott was wearing a white and floral dress the night of the incident. Moore later identified Knott from a photo array as the female aggressor. 

Mondesir testified that she saw a female, whom she described as a brunette, in a white dress punch a man.

Jeffrey Nagle testified he heard antigay language from his nearby apartment and saw a man being knocked to the ground. 

“He looked motionless as he hit the ground,” Nagle said. 

Defense’s case

Busico called four “fact” witnesses — all of whom were present for the incident and friends of Knott or others in her group — to the stand on the third day of the trial. 

One woman, Elizabeth Foley, filmed the incident on her cell phone. Her video did not depict Knott in a physical altercation, and she said Knott was “just standing around.”

One clip of the video captured Knott rushing toward one section of the melee.

Foley’s boyfriend, John McCabe, testified Knott was “standing off to the side” during the incident, but Barry countered with his police statement in which he said he didn’t see Knott during the incident.

Pat Conly contended that Hesse threw him to the ground and Taylor Peltzer testified that, when she put her hands up to separate Haught and Williams, Haught punched her in the face. She said she required a dental procedure in connection with the punch, but was unsure what type of procedure it was and acknowledged it could have been for a cavity. 

Knott testified when she took the stand that Haught pushed Peltzer’s hand and did not punch her.

Busico also presented seven character witnesses, including friends, family friends, former teachers and the woman whose children Knott babysits. 

In her own words

Knott took the stand in her own defense Tuesday morning.

She repeated throughout her direct examination that she was not involved in the physical altercation. 

“I saw Phil go to pull up his arm [to strike Haught] and I went to stop him,” Knott said. “I didn’t want to see Mr. Williams hurt or Mr. Haught hurt, even though I didn’t know him.” 

“I was trying to calm the situation,” she added. “That’s why my hand was on [friend] Fran, to say, ‘Stop. Everyone, stop.’”

Knott said she was about 10 feet from Williams when she saw him punch Haught. 

“As soon as I saw him connect, I turned and ran in the opposite direction,” Knott testified. 

“Did you at any time punch, strike or hit anyone?” Busico asked. 

“No.”

“Did you use the word faggot?” 

“No.” 

On a frequently hostile cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney Mike Barry, Knott acknowledged that the day after the incident, Williams, Harrigan and another friend asked her to ask her father, a police chief, what they should do. Knott testified her father advised them to contact authorities. 

When asked why she didn’t contact authorities herself, Knott replied, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” 

Knott’s character was brought into question numerous times. 

Busico went on the offensive, addressing the defendant’s infamous antigay tweets. 

“Let’s talk about those tweets,” he said. 

Busico walked Knott through each of the four tweets in question, all of which she said were “taken out of context.”

She suggested one tweet, in which she used the hashtags “gay” and “ew” in response to two men kissing in a club, was prompted by her disdain for public displays of affection. 

“I’m not a PDA person,” she told Busico. “They were aggressively making out. That was strange to me.”

On cross, Barry hammered the point that a deeper dislike of LGBT people could be to blame.

“Do you find gay people disgusting?” he asked.

“Absolutely not,” she replied.

When questioned about a tweet in which she described her own hairstyle with the hashtag “dyke,” Knott said the word is not in her “everyday vocabulary list” but that she used it to convey that she “looked terrible.” She acknowledged it could be considered a “slur” but objected to Barry’s suggestion that it’s a “hateful” word.

“I’d have to disagree with you,” Knott said.

She acknowledged using the word “gay” to mean “lame” when referring to a song she disliked in one tweet.

“I guess that’s OK,” Knott said about equating the two words.

In a humorous moment that broke up the hostility, Barry fired off lines from the Will Ferrell movie “Anchorman,” like, “Baxter, is that you?” and “I love lamp.”

He asked Knott why she tweeted the movie line “Jazz flute is for little fairy boys.”

“Do you have a friend who plays jazz flute?” he asked. “Why, in the middle of the day when you were at home, would you pick this line to tweet?”

Knott said she didn’t know. 

She contended she would never use derogatory language to an LGBT person’s face and added the tweets don’t speak to her feelings about LGBT people.

“I have gay friends and family members,” she said, prompting Barry to interrupt with, “Sure. Glad you got that out.” His commentary elicited a warning from Judge Roxanne Covington.

Barry also questioned Knott about a tweet in which she said she was kicked out of a bar in Hilton Head, N.C. After a sidebar, Covington allowed the question. 

“So you said you’d never been in a situation like [Sept. 11, 2014], but you were kicked out of — banned — from a bar in Hilton Head?” he asked. 

Knott said she didn’t recall the circumstances of the incident. 


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